In order to increase food options for children while at school, the administration has announced a new proposal that would roll back problematic reforms made to the school lunch program in 2010. 

The new rules would allow schools to reduce the amount of vegetables and fruits required from one cup to a half cup and replace these calories with other snack options. This would give schools more flexibility to meet children’s needs and preferences while also preventing food waste and mismanagement of taxpayer dollars. 

The changes former First Lady Michelle Obama pushed through Congress in 2010 created a massive school-based food waste problem. The problem was so bad that cafeteria workers reported whole trays of food being dumped into trash cans.  Kids were being given foods that weren’t flavored because these rules required no butter, cheese, or salt.

You don’t have to be a child nutritionist to understand that what kids like and prefer. NO one was advocating unhealthy food, but boiled broccoli or green beans with no added flavorings is unlikely to appeal to kids, or adults!  Kids around the country posted pictures on social media of grotesque, unappetizing, and downright inedible school lunches with the hashtag #thanksmichelleobama. 

The Government Accountability Office found massive food waste was systemic throughout the national program during the years after the reforms were implemented. In Los Angeles County, it was so bad that the schools began partnering with a local homeless shelter to offload the food school kids refused to eat. 

But it wasn’t just food waste, taxpayer dollars were also wasted. 

In 2018, U.S. taxpayers spent $17 billion on federal school lunch programs combined. The Government Accountability Office found that these programs have had improper payment rates of around 20 percent, on average.  These programs have been plagued by fraud, waste, abuse and improper payments (such as free meals provided to ineligible children). According to the Office of Management and Budget, the National School Lunch Program lost nearly $800 million owing to improper payments in fiscal year 2018, while the School Breakfast Program lost $300 million.  The Office of Management and Budget calls these programs “high-priority” programs because of the misspending. 

According to the latest Government Accountability Office report, the estimated error rates for 2018 were lower than in prior years because the Department of Agriculture has “changed what it considers to be an improper payment.” As a result, it is impossible to compare the most recent error rates with prior years.  

What’s clear, though, is that these reforms have been a disaster. Kids aren’t eating the so-called healthier food. Food waste is a serious problem. Taxpayer dollars are being wasted.

The administration should be praised for rolling back these so-called reforms.